A city plans to mirror DeKalb County’s successful tactic to get more residents vaccinated for COVID-19.
Clarkston city leaders said during a Tuesday work session they intend to give $50 gift cards to people who get vaccinated at clinics in the city. Councilman Jamie Carroll, who proposed the idea, mentioned funding the initiative with $10,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
“It may not be a total gamechanger, but anything we can do to increase the vaccination numbers — considering how COVID has had a huge effect in our community — is important,” Carroll said during the meeting. “This is what the ARPA stimulus funds are designed for.”
Clarkston is following in the footsteps of DeKalb, which offered $50 gift cards to the first 100 people who got vaccinated at a drive-thru site last weekend. Citing the initial effort’s success, the county is doing it again this weekend. Vaccinations are free.
Carroll said the City Council could provide more funding to the gift card program if it’s successful — $10,000 in funding is enough for 200 people to receive gift cards. The city will receive $4.7 million in ARPA funds in two payments, and the first half arrived earlier this week, Carroll said. The second half will be distributed next year, and cities have until the end of 2024 to spend it.
Mayor Beverly Burks said Clarkston plans to allocate $75,000 to health-related initiatives, which would include the gift card program. Councilwoman Laura Hopkins encouraged city staff to translate the gift card advertisements into other languages to address Clarkston’s large population of immigrants and refugees.
“It makes all of us safer for every single person to get vaccinated,” she said. “I do want to encourage everything we can to get people vaccinated and to still exercise caution even if you are vaccinated.”
As of Tuesday, only about 45% of DeKalb County residents were fully vaccinated.
Clarkston also plans to spend ARPA funds on programs for business, rental, mortgage, utility and food assistance. The city will also reimburse its budget for hazard pay, equipment and other costs accrued as a result of the pandemic. More information is available at clarkstonga.gov/american-rescue-plan-act-funding-availability.